“Nothing is currently more important to the Merchant Venturers than seeing Bristol’s education system become one associated with high levels of achievement…” - Colin Skellett, Chairman of the Merchant Venturers Education Committee

Merchants’ Schools

Colston’s School is an independent fee paying school with a strong reputation for the provision of a high quality education, excellent academic results and a wide range of sporting and other extra curricular activities. Celebrating its Tercentenary in 2010, Colston’s produced record results in A Level and GCSE examinations. The Merchant Venturers, as trustees of the estate, are also committed to the good governance of Colston’s School.

The Merchant Venturers also sponsor two academies in Bristol — the Merchants’ Academy in Withywood and Colston’s Girls’ School on Cheltenham Road; the former in partnership with the University of Bristol. As a sponsor, the Merchants are heavily involved in all aspects of both academies, with strong representation on the governing bodies. They also work closely with the Department of Education, Bristol City Council and the local community.

Colston’s Girls’ School continues to top the academic league tables for maintained schools within Bristol for both A Level and GCSE results and remains heavily oversubscribed at entry level. It recently received a very good interim OFSTED report.

Merchants’ Academy, the successor to Withywood Community School, has demonstrated significant improvement since its opening in 2008 and, in 2010, not only recorded a very good interim OFSTED report but also achieved a 47% improvement in its academic results (5 GCSEs at A*-C including English and Maths). It has a growing 6th Form offering the International Baccalaureate.

The Merchants’ Roots in Education

The Merchant Venturers have been involved in education in Bristol for at least 400 years — archival records show that they were running a school for the children of mariners as early as 1595. This grew into the Bristol Trade School in the 18th century, which subsequently became the Merchant Venturers’ School and later the Merchant Venturers’ Technical College.

When Bristol University was granted its Charter in 1909 the engineering department of the Technical College became the University’s Faculty of Engineering. Meanwhile, the Technical College became Bristol Polytechnic, the precursor of the University of the West of England.

In 1708 Edward Colston founded Colston’s School and endowed it, appointing the Merchant Venturers as managers of the endowment.

In 1891 Colston’s Girls’ School was created under the auspices of the same foundation. One hundred years later in 1991 Colston’s School became co-educational through its merger with the Collegiate School, Winterbourne. There is a significant Merchant Venturer representation on each of the governing bodies of both Colston’s Schools.

More recently the Merchant Venturers’ commitment to see a step change in the quality of secondary education in Bristol is reflected in its provision of skills and resources to the state sector.

The Merchants are involved in sponsoring and supporting the development of two Academies, which opened in September 2008.

A capital commitment of £2million was agreed by the Merchants’ in support of the new Merchants’ Academy in Withywood, which has  replaced Withywood Community School. Significant additional capital and revenue support has also been provided by the Merchant Venturers for this project.

As a sponsor, the Merchants are heavily involved in all aspects of the Academy, chairing the Academy Trust and working closely with Bristol University (as co-sponsors), the Secretary of State for Education, Bristol City Council and the local community.

The Merchants also sponsor Colston’s Girls’ School, which became an Academy in September 2008. At the beginning of March 2008, this school became one of the UK’s first Independent schools to sign an Academy Funding Agreement.